Back to Table of Contents for the On Course I Workshop

1. Strategy: Silent Socratic Dialogue

Application: Sociology

Educator: Chris Landrum, Career Counselor, Mineral Area College, MO

Implementation: I used the Silent Socratic Dialogue with my students in a diversity exercise that focused on discrimination. To start, I had students write about a time when they were discriminated against, discriminated against someone else, or viewed discrimination taking place with other parties. We then broke into pairs and practiced the Silent Socratic Dialogue. When finished, we got into a circle and discussed their reactions to the exercise. Some students were a little unsure of themselves when asking questions of the other person, but they did feel that it started a dialogue and challenged them to think things through more fully. Also, I think additional benefits came from the exercise. Students were in more of a mindset to talk about these discrimination issues, and we spent the next 20 minutes allowing students to share their stories and discuss them. I could not have gotten them to that point if we had not first participated in the Silent Socratic dialogue. This exercise has also set the stage for the additional diversity exercises I plan to do later in the course. I’m so excited about having this great tool to help me in my classes.

2. Strategy: Victim & Creator Language

Application: Sociology – Human Relations & Student Success

Educator: Richard Benard, Faculty, Bryant & Stratton College (Willoughby Hills Campus), OH

Implementation: In order to help students focus on the language they use (Victim or Creator), I made a red vest (a running or construction vest will work) with a big “SVU” (Special Victims Unit [all victims think they are “special”]) on it. I also made a green vest with “CREATOR” on it. Beginning the first class after the lesson on Victim/Creator language, I started handing out the vests for students to wear based upon the language they used in the classroom. I began by “awarding” the first example of Victim or Creator language that I heard. For example, if a student arrived a few minutes late and said “I tried to get up early so that I could get here on time,” I gave him the red SVU vest to wear. Similarly, if a student said “I took an earlier bus so that I could get here on time,” I gave her the green Creator vest to wear. Once I gave out the vest(s) in each class, the students then listened as other students spoke, and they passed the vests around. Just to be fair, I included myself in the process so that if I slipped and made a Victim statement, I, too, could be awarded the SVU vest. At first the students weren’t sure how to take this type of activity. However, after the first 15 minutes of the first class, they were really into it. I have never seen so many students practice active listening for such long periods of time. By the end of the semester, there was very little Victim language in the class, and, in fact, the students went from “just trying not to get the SVU vest” to actively using Creator language in order to be “awarded” the green vest. It is truly awesome to see how a small activity such as this can create a fundamental change in the way students speak and thus eventually begin to behave.

3. Strategy: Inner Conversations as part of Mastering Creator Language

Application: Human Relations & Student Success

Educator: Richard Benard, Faculty, Bryant & Stratton College (Willoughby Hills Campus), OH

Implementation: When discussing the three main players in our inner conversations–The Inner Critic, The Inner Defender and The Inner Guide–I have found that if students can visualize a person or character to associate with each voice it is easier for them to accept that 1) the conversations are actually happening and 2) they can control which voice they choose to listen to. For example: The Inner Critic could be the face of a mother-in-law, an ex-spouse, or anyone else who they might see as a judgmental nag. The Inner Defender might be a Dad, the Hulk, or someone else who has protected them in the past. The Inner Guide might be a grandparent, teacher, counselor, or a wise looking owl. As part of the class discussion I give this personal example: Before I became a true Creator and really got in touch with my Inner Guide, my Inner Defender ruled my life and allowed me to stay a victim with very little effort. My Inner Defender was “Helga” a female Viking warrior. Whenever it looked like I might be blamed for something, Helga would be there with her big sword and shiny Teflon coated shield. She knocked down any accusations aimed at me and her shield and my tongue were in perfect sync to cast the blame far from me. As I got older (and hopefully) smarter, I started to be more responsible. But I needed a guide to help me make better decisions. One day, out of the blue, I heard a long forgotten nugget of wisdom that my long-passed grandfather had told me as a boy. I remembered the exact moment and location that he had shared his experience with me. From that point on, whenever I am at a crossroads of a decision I visualize my grandfather and listen for his invaluable guidance. At times, I have to keep Helga at bay and tell her to “Shut up!” I know she wants to protect me and help me be a Victim but I don’t let her. The point of all of this is that once students realize that they can actually see who or what is talking to them, they can sort out who they want to listen to and then they can begin to realize that they have the power to tell the others (by name) to leave them alone! I have shared this strategy with not only my students but other OC Ambassadors and all of the feedback is positive in terms of helping people realize which voice to listen to in order to be less of a Victim and more of a Creator.

4. Strategy: Next Actions List

Application: Introduction to Sociology

Educator: Harry J. Mersmann, Faculty, Sociology, San Joaquin Delta College, CA

Implementation: In teaching students about statuses (ascribed and achieved) or the social positions we occupy in our lives and the associated behaviors or roles, I introduce the concepts of role strain and role conflict. For non-sociologists, role strain occurs in the status of being a student with having to take exams, go to class, do projects, study, read, meet with study groups, etc. Role conflict occurs because a student also possesses the statuses of partner, parent, child, sibling, friend, worker, etc., all of which have their own associate roles (or behaviors/actions). I use a modified Next Actions List as a way for students to list their statuses (what the sheet calls “roles”) and then list the actions (or behavioral roles) associated with those statuses. When students see all they have to do each week, it allows them to have a deeper understanding of role strain (incompatibility among roles corresponding to a single status) and role conflict (incompatibility among roles corresponding to different statuses). There are two outcomes. First, deep learning occurs because the abstract concepts from sociology have been personalized. Second, students are introduced to a valuable self-management tool. This is also a opportunity for students to increase their emotional intelligence by discussing ways they can cope with being overwhelmed, a common emotional response to role strain and role conflict.

5. Strategy: The Jigsaw

Application: Introduction to Sociology

Educator: Michael Young, Faculty, Sociology, Bay College, MI

Implementation: Place students in groups of four and have each student pick one social class on which to become the group’s expert: Upper, Middle, Lower, Poor. Have students read from the text and take notes on their class for 15 minutes. Then have them break into their four groups and exchange what they learned about their social class.  After 15 more minutes, have students return to their home groups of mixed social classes and share what they learned about their class. Finally, have students in home group identify ways in which the classes influence and are connected to one another. Discuss how social class structure in the US is maintained. (15 minutes). This activity could be used before or after a lecture on social class and stratification.

6. Strategy: Silent Socratic Dialogue

Application: Sociology (social inequality)

Educator: Susannah Dolance, Faculty, Sociology, Century College, MN

Implementation: Provide a selection of topics and pieces of data on social inequality and have students explore the data as well as what they believe are the underlying reasons for these data, and why the information matters.  Examples:

  1. race and unemployment rates, wealth, and/or home ownership
  2. gender and earnings and/or high school/college graduation rates
  3. the number of states that allow, or don’t allow, same sex marriage

With students in pairs, each writes an opening paragraph addressing this topic; then they switch books back and forth, each challenging/questioning the other person’s ideas.  After switching the books for 3 rounds, have a class discussion addressing these topics.

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